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August 4, 2000

Temagami undergoing economic resurgence

After visiting Temagami recently and reading reports in the Nugget, it is evident that the Temagami council under mayor Wayne Adair, along with other organizations, are dealing with many of the complex local issues there. After struggling with the loss of jobs when lumber companies and the Sherman mine left, there are signs of an economic resurgence, primarily from tourism. 

From an historical perspective Temagami has a fascinating history, and history is being made every day as events unfold.  


On January 1st, 1998 amalgamation of the Township of Temagami, including the town of Temagami, with 17 townships covering lake Temagami and Rabbit, Cassels and Snake Island lakes took place. One of the new council's biggest jobs was to make this marriage between partners, that were sometimes in conflict, work. A new official plan, and various other initiatives that the council is directly or indirectly involved in, are changing the face of Temagami. The number of households under the former council was about 630, as compared with 1,400 today and the new budget is close to 4 million dollars.  

Fire Tower 

One exciting new initiative is the hundred-foot fire tower complex, which opened just last week and which is stopping many travellers on highway 11. Firefighting and other northern history is displayed in the tower's interpretation centre, and there is a spectacular view for forty miles over prime forests, lakes and the town of Temagami. You are drawn to visit the forest, the beaver ponds and the town. The White Bear Forest nearby has 6,000 metres of trails. Climbing the tower, walking the woods and touring the town are all refreshing to the traveller or the visitor.  


In the town itself be sure to see the new Welcome Centre housing the town offices, library, Chamber of Commerce and art gallery. It is fitting that the old town hall is currently being torn down. There is also a new fire hall, medical centre, co-op grocery store, a new subdivision and many excellent stores and restaurants. There are also, of course, opportunities for canoeing, sightseeing and swimming. 

The Welcome Centre's information centre at the Chamber of Commerce provides details on all of the above plus hotels, lodges, cottages, floatplane services and houseboat rentals. Information on special events such as the Legion Fish Fry on Saturday August 5th is also available.  

Train Station 

Another historical initiative is the restoration of the beautiful stone train station on the main street of Temagami. A trust has been established and a Heritage Foundation grant has been received to help with the project. The building will include a small museum and archives, including hundreds of photos donated by several local families. The museum is open now.  
The beautiful 1909  stone train station on the main street of temagami. 

Provincial Parks 

There are numerous provincial parks within driving or boating distance from Temagami. Finlayson Provincial Park, just south of Temagami, has an interesting small museum and a plaque recognizing the mysterious Grey Owl who lived and worked in the area for years. The lady Evelyn Smoothwater Wilderness Park as the name implies is designed for the more ambitious adventurer. It has the Maple Mountain lookout and Ontario's highest spot, the Ishpatina Ridge.  

Temagami First Nation 

The longest history in the area is that of the Native people, the Temagami First Nation, whose residency goes back some five thousand years. Old trails, rock paintings and archaeological history are in evidence. In spite of this long presence, the Native people only have a 283 acre reserve on Bear Island. They have been respected and employed in various capacities, but like First Nations people across Canada have only recently been able to become active in the pursuit of their neglected rights. In 1974 they placed a land caution on the area, pending an agreement on land and compensation. The caution has since been lifted and a framework agreement has been signed, laying out a thirty month process to provide a resolution to the current impasse and to strengthen the First Nation position as a partner in the future of the municipality.  


Temagami was in economic trouble when the Sherman iron ore mine closed in 1990 and when several lumber companies, especially the Milne Company, disbanded. The previous closing of the Copperfields copper mine after seventeen years of work in Temagami also had a negative impact. 

Efforts to get pine logging going again met with resistance from numerous sources, including the Native population, when the Red Squirrel Road was going to be extended for logging. On a more positive note, there is the possibility of a hardwood saw mill being established in the near future, with the hope of some spin-off woodwork activity and new jobs.  

Interest Groups 

Temagami has a history of various associations, councils, boards and societies with various legitimate but sometimes conflicting objectives. 

The Temagami Lakes Association, for example, was founded in the 1930s and has a long record of protecting the future of the 1,259 islands and shorelines on Lake Temagami. They have fought to keep trees along the shorelines to protect the appearance of the waterways and have fought against development other than on the islands. Their publication, The Temagami Times, profiles some of their initiatives, including the provision of privies in key locations and a co-operative arrangement for the use of water pumps in case of fire. They have an office at the end of the Temagami Lake Access Road where they have excellent archival material on the long history of the lake. They can be visited on the Internet at www.tla-temagami.com. The road is an improved version of the old Sherman mine road, and is now a major access point to the lake.  

The Temagami Community Foundation 

Space does not allow for a look at all of the leadership groups or at all of the history of the area. I would like to mention a progressive new initiative profiled recently in The Temagami Times (Fall 1999) by Vicky Grant, the Chair of the new group The Temagami Community Foundation. The foundation, one of many across Canada, is the only one with significant Native involvement, including several Native people on their board. They will establish a perpetual fund of donated money that they will disperse to create programs and projects that will benefit Temagami. Donations will be tax deductible. The money will be used for programs and projects that are not for personal or private benefit, or that are political in nature. Applications for innovative ideas are now available. 

For more information on Temagami call the Chamber of Commerce Information Centre (1 800 661-7609). A subscription to the Temagami Talker is highly informative (705 569-2311). You can also contact the informative township web site at www.twp.temagami.on.ca. The book Temagami by Michael Barnes (1992) provides a good overview of the history of the area for those who have an interest in an in-depth look at past history.  

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